Bradley Manning escapes, having been replaced in his cell by someone named ‘Chelsea’

Are any of y’all watching “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix? No, wait, that’s an archaic question in the age of binge-watching, and of series being released all at once. It should be more like “Have any of y’all watched all or part of ‘Orange is the New Black’?”

Well, we have been, and we’ve seen it through the third episode, which centers around a transsexual — a former fireman named Burset, now living as a woman, specifically as the inmate hairdresser — in the women’s prison in which the series is set. It’s a sympathetic portrayal in the fullest sense — sympathetic to him as a him (in flashbacks) and her as a her, as well as to Burset’s wife and child and the pain they’ve dealt with through the process. I also found myself feeling a bit for the criminal justice system and prison authorities, because of the questions they have to deal with: Do you put Burset in a women’s prison? If so, is the state obligated to provide continued hormone treatments? If the state withdraws such treatments (which it does, allegedly for medical reasons), should Burset still be kept in a facility for women? If Burset commits suicide because all that personal and family sacrifice was for nothing, is the state liable?

But at least in that case, Burset came to the system having already made the big change, and having paid $80,000 for it. (We are given to gather that the imprisonment has something to do with how that money was acquired.) Everybody knew what they were dealing with.

Now, we have the real-life case of Bradley Manning, a young man who served in the U.S. Army as a man, and was convicted and sentenced as a man, and now wants to become a woman. Or is a woman, as his missive on the subject states.

Wow. This has to be frustrating for the Army. Here they went to all this trouble to try and convict and sentence this guy named Bradley, and now there’s some dame in his cell instead.

That’s one of the slicker escapes I’ve ever heard of.

47 thoughts on “Bradley Manning escapes, having been replaced in his cell by someone named ‘Chelsea’

  1. Silence

    I watched an intimate (proper use of the word here) shower scene from Orange Is the New Black online. Laura Prepon (the gorgeous redhead from That 70’s Show) and Taylor Schilling (Dagny Taggart – va-va-va-voom!) meet up in the prison shower for an all too brief assignation. I approve of this show.

    As to Miss Manning – this is the kind of thing that really annoys me as a citizen. In all likelihood we’ll end up paying for this felons gender reassignment surgery and a lifetime supply of hormone treatments. That borders on preposterous. I’m sure it was one of those things that was known before yesterday, but either wasn’t germain to the trial, or was specifically excluded from the trial, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Of course, Brad wants single-payer health coverage, so it follows that he wants to pay for any and everyone’s gender reassignment sugery and hormone therapy, not just prisoners. Probably wants taxpayers or insurance ratepayers to fund all sorts of other elective surgeries too. Non-reconstructive breast augmentations, lap bands, tummy tucks, calf implants, rhinoplasty, botox, eyebrow lifts, butt-cheek implants, mustache transplants, etc. Where does it all end? Where does it all end?

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Look, I’m just a moron lawyer, but let’s stipulate to a few things here:

    1. The Army does important things for the country.
    2. The Army has secrets.
    3. The bad guys want to find out those secrets so they can keep our Army from succeeding at it’s missions.
    4. Throughout history, the bad guys (and the good guys) have used the sexual indiscretions or peccadilloes of the other side’s people to gain access to secrets through blackmail.

    With me so far? Ok. So how exactly does a person with what is admittedly, let’s call it a “confused” sexuality , get in a position to gain possession of our important classified information. Where’s the vetting? Seriously. Somewhere, the guys who did the vetting on Bradley Manning before he got his TOP SECRET clearance should be worried about being fired. Maybe we need to look into the vetting a little more closely.

    Also, is it just me, or does Manning look a little like Claire Danes from “Homeland” in that picture? Not that it’s close, but that’s the first thing I thought of.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I would not have the taxpayers pay for Manning’s sex change any more than I would have us pay for Viagra for an inmate. Nor would I pay for the dye if the prisoner feels a deep-seated need to change hair color. And I certainly wouldn’t pay for a nose job.

    I do think that we need to provide inmates with health care for illness or injuries.

    1. Silence

      But he’s depressed, and if you don’t pay for his sex-change he might become suicidal! Helping him to live his life as a woman might be the most humane and cost effective option, Brad.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    I suspect that the issue here is highly unlikely to be whether the taxpayers pay for a sex change. The issue is likely to be whether the system would have to accommodate him in other ways — such as transferring him to a women’s prison.

    I would say no to any sort of accommodation, and for the reasons Bryan cites above. What this guy did was beyond reprehensible, and he is to be punished accordingly. The people of the United States do not in any way owe it to him to help with his self-actualization, whatever form that may take. He’s forfeited the right to make such choices in his life. He’s a prisoner, and he deserves to be a prisoner.

    Manning has always been a somewhat more sympathetic character than Edward Snowden, in that he’s always seemed like kind of a sad little guy. His crime, however, was worse. For a soldier to betray his country in this way is just more heinous than a civilian doing it — which is why I can’t wait for him to lose the right to wear the uniform (has the dishonorable discharge taken effect yet?).

    Then again, in Manning’s favor, he has faced the music for his crimes. Snowden is still hiding behind Putin — which makes him the most ironic champion of transparency in history…

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, folks, this is eerie — like 1984 eerie.

    According to Wikipedia, there is no person named Bradley Manning. There never has been, according to the past-tense portions of the entry. There is only Chelsea Manning, who is now referred to throughout the entry as “she,” including references to childhood and to the time when the individual’s crimes were committed.

    In other words, Chelsea Manning is a woman, has always been a woman, and has always been opposed to our war with Eastasia…

    Which, of course, is objectively false. There is absolutely no documentary evidence anywhere for a Chelsea Manning having committed these crimes. That simply cannot be supported by the evidence.

    Shouldn’t Wikipedia have a solid, objective standard for such a rewrite of history like this? I mean, just for starters, say, a legal name change?

    Say Barack Obama decides one day to announce informally that he wants to be known as George Smith, a Muslim from Kenya. Just says it, doesn’t do anything to change his name or anything. Would Wikipedia, ignoring all the evidence that he is really Barack Hussein Obama, and the birth certificates we’ve had such a fuss over, rewrite his entry to reflect that? Just because he said it?

    Consider the problems in this part of the rewritten Manning entry:

    “Raised as a boy, Manning was regarded as small for her age – as an adult, she reached just 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m) and weighed 105 lb (47.6 kg)…”

    Is that really all that small for a woman? I guess it’s sort of petite — but is it remarkably so?

    But more than that, it is simply false that he was considered “small for her age.” You just said he was being “raised as a boy,” so no one, but no one, would have considered him “small for HER age.”

    But perhaps I should give the Wikipedia editors a break. They did this in an awfully big hurry. Perhaps they’ll smooth out the rough spots going forward…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      It’s getting even weirder! Salon is now referring to Manning as a woman. Here’s the crazy quote:

      “Manning has made her identity clear. She has made her request clear. To ignore these facts while reporting them is not just bad journalism — it’s utterly bigoted.” -Salon

      Wait, what? Just because you “request” to be a woman doesn’t mean you’re a woman. The dude has a Y chromosome. What is going on in the media?

      The New Republic has the headline in 20 point font: Bradley Manning is now Chelsea Manning:

      Since we’re just self-identifying this guy, I would like the commentariat to know that I know self-identify as Emperor Caskey the First, Ruler of these United States, Protector of Mexico, and Heir Apparent of Canada. I have always felt this way.

      Please refer to me as such from this day forward.

      1. JesseS

        Sexual politics moves fast these days. Every few months we get another letter behind LGBTQIA. Or is that LGBTTQIA or LGBTQQIA or LGBTTQQIA? I’d imagine the writer for Salon would call you a Nazi if you missed a letter. Maybe we need to an extra AA to the end for Agnostic/Atheist so that atheist and agnostic non-Cis aren’t unfairly lumped in with Deist non-Cis and form a more perfect political union. Perhaps LGBTTQQIAAnCAnC & Friends.

        I’m getting old.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I really liked OItNB! A thoughtful, yet entertaining, look at a lot of issues that don’t get much air time, like gender identity and women who aren’t thin, straight, white, rich. The characters were wonderfully complex for the most part!

      2. barry

        Haven’t watched it.

        Have ZERO interest in watching shows about transexuals. I had rather saw off my own arm.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It’s not really a show about transsexuals. It’s about prison. There was just that one episode — so far.

          A lot of the characters are lesbians, however, in case that bothers you… Some only occasionally, though.

          Frankly, the show dwells a bit more on sexuality — including of the hetero variety — than I’d like. And it does it for shock value. Not that anyone is shocked, but one rather immature element of modern “edgy” TV drama, from the Sopranos to this, is to suddenly throw sex at you. For instance, a character turns a corner, not expecting it, and BAM, there are two people having sex. Or the same is done to the viewer, in a scene change from a quiet conversation to a main character banging away with somebody.

          Some shows do it more artfully than others. With the Sopranos, it all pretty much fit into the narrative. With something like “The Tudors” — well, that’s just cheesy soft porn.

          1. Barry

            I watch almost no current television series.

            I do like Airplane Repo about men who repo airplanes.

            I watch older (pre 1970 movies and tv shows). Never have been interested in watching new series that are trying to portray 40 years ago. Much rather watch the older shows or movies.

            I am not the least bit interested in watching tv shows showing or talking about men having sex with other men, or women having sex with other women – or how shocked they are when they see someone else having sex. Sounds ludicrous, and if I want to read or hear about that I can pick up a copy of People magazine or the tabloids at the supermarket counter.

          2. Silence

            I recently discovered “MeTV” on my channel lineup. It’s like a better version of “TV Land.” I have been DVR’ing 70’s cop shows and 1960’s legal dramas.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, I already did that with a rather long comment on the nature of reality, because I was trying to avoid a protracted Kulturkampf thing.

        The point was that one of the most severe sociopolitical divides in our society today may be between people who believe reality can be altered by an individual stating his opinion or desire that reality be other than it is, and those who believe that to be impossible.

        It got really heavy. I ditched it…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ll just say that I hate it when I see another cognitive divide tear us apart.

          It’s one thing when we all agree on the facts, and have different opinions about what to do about the facts.

          But when we differ over the facts — or, in this case, whether such a thing as objective facts exist — it’s really, really bad…

          1. Mark Stewart

            Too many people suffer from reality conception problems. We all live our own reality of course; but it is important, to ourselves most of all, that the basic facts are representative of the world as it is.

            Bradley Manning may find his identity confusing and his psyche hurting, but that doesn’t in any way mean that the rest of us should be supportive of his break with reality from the standpoint that we buy into it – which is very different from being supportive of his journey to achieve a reconciliation between himself and his reality.

            The dude is clearly psychologically damaged. Therefore, it makes no sense to allow him to define reality for the rest of us. That would be beyond distorted, wouldn’t it?

  6. Bart

    Just when you think the bar for absurdity is set as low as it can get, someone comes along and proves you wrong. If they can’t lower it any further, they will dig a damn tunnel under it and crawl through. Hell, even the lady interviewing his lawyer referred to Bradley Manning as “she” after reading his letter asking that he be addressed as Chelsea. From his/her/its/androgynous or whatever’s letter; “I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility)….”

    So, everyone who wants to correspond with Bradley/Chelsea Manning, when you write, be sure to use the male gender on the envelope so “he” can get the mail but be sure to make the greeting on the letter inside to Chelsea so “she” will read it. 🙂

  7. George Orwell

    O’Brien: You are slow to learn, Winston. Perhaps we have been feeding you too well.
    Winston: How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.
    O’Brien: Sometimes they are five. And sometimes they are three. You must try harder. It isn’t easy to become sane. [He holds up four fingers again.] How many fingers, Winston?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, I try so hard to be sane, but it’s difficult. I find myself mired in archaic notions of what IS sane.

      For instance, in my disordered mind, The New York Times is sane:

      WASHINGTON — Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier sentenced to 35 years in military prison for the biggest breach of classified documents in the nation’s history, said on Thursday he is female and wants to live as a woman named Chelsea.

      And The Washington Post is sane:

      Army Pfc. Bradley Manning said Thursday that he will live as a woman and seek hormone replacement therapy while incarcerated, confronting the military prison system with a demand that has prompted state and federal institutions to reluctantly offer similar treatment to inmates.

      And The Wall Street Journal is sane:

      WASHINGTON—Pfc. Bradley Manning said Thursday that he wants to live his life as a woman and be known as Chelsea Manning as he begins a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified government information to WikiLeaks.

      Slate, on the other hand, is barking mad. They’ve gone spare:

      Bradley Manning Is Now Chelsea Manning. The Press Should Start Using Female Pronouns Immediately.

      See, to me, those who can separate the fact of what Manning is from what he would like to be are the ones who have a grip on reality. The others have lost it.

      Is there any hope for me, O’Brien?

      1. O'Brien

        It might be a long time, before you are cured. You are a difficult case. But don’t give up hope. Everyone is cured sooner or later.

  8. Karen McLeod

    This is sad. I accept the feelings of transgender people. The problem is that this guy waited until he leaked lots of classified material, tried to get “whistle blower/hero” status. Then, when that failed, mentioned his desire to become a woman. At this point, if he’s telling the truth, I feel sorry for him. But he’s a prisoner now. It’s just a bit late.

    1. David

      The problem is that this guy waited until he leaked lots of classified material, tried to get “whistle blower/hero” status. Then, when that failed, mentioned his desire to become a woman.

      That is just ignorant, Karen. Manning’s trial and the statement released yesterday do not contain the first mentioning of her gender disorder.

        1. Silence

          I don’t think yesterday was the initial mention of the gender-identity disorder issue with Manning. It was just the first time it made mainstream news.

          1. David

            That’s right, Silence. And that makes it silly to suggest, as Karen did, that Manning might just be lying about it because the “whistle blower/hero” thing didn’t work out.

            And Brad, I did not call Karen ignorant. I said “that is just ignorant,” obviously referring to the statement she made.

  9. Karen McLeod

    He may have claimed that he’s actually a she in utero and since. But he didn’t insist on acting on it until now. That’s the problem.

  10. Lou Reed

    Bradley came from Crescent, O.K.
    Joined the Army after he decided he was gay.
    Got a top secret clearance make some leaks
    got convicted and turned into a freak
    She says, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
    He said, “Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side”

    Edward was with Booz Allen Hamilton
    In the PRISM room he was everybody’s darlin’
    But he caused a diplomatic row
    After the Chi-coms let him go
    He says, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
    He said, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”

    And all the spies go
    Doo do doo, doo do doo, doo do doo

    Julian gave the secret information away
    He would make those Western governments pay
    A secret leak and his own Wiki
    Now he’s stuck in the Ecuador embassy
    “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
    I said, “Hey Julian, take a walk on the wild side”

    Anthony Wiener came and hit the streets
    Lookin’ for power and a woman who’d cheat
    Went to the Internet, you should’ve seen the girls he’d get
    They said, “Hey sugar, take a walk on the wild side”
    He said, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
    Alright, huh

    Sydney was just sexting away
    Thought she was a porn queen for a day
    Then she used up her minutes of fame
    got exposed to the hiv, porno was to blame
    She said, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
    I said, “Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side”

    And the blogs say
    Doo do doo, doo do doo, doo do doo

  11. Bart

    I do not make any pretense of understanding how one with gender identity issues feels and I make no apologies for not understanding either. I may be able to feel bad for the person but that is as far as it goes. And just because I and I strongly suspect the majority of men feel the same way doesn’t make us terrible people and “knuckle-dragging cavemen”.

    I agree with Karen totally. Bradley Manning waited until after the fact to play the gender identity card in order to secure a better position within the federal penal system, namely Leavenworth where he will serve his sentence. Chances are good that he will get out before his 8 years parole eligibility is reached, hell, he may even be granted a presidential pardon because of the danger he will face in prison. Under the guise of “cruel and unusual punishment” because of his declaration, he may be granted special privileges.

    In the interim, he will most likely be segregated from the general male population of Leavenworth for his safety because he would most likely become someone’s “special friend” or worse, raped by other inmates. I have been acquainted with a few people who have spent some time “inside” and even the toughest guy on the block on the outside can become another inmate’s “special friend” on the inside by force or choice.

    Bradley Manning broke the law, violated military code, and in my view, committed an act of treason. However, the military judge ruled differently and now it is time for Mr. Manning to face up to what he did and serve his sentence. If he wants to become a female the way Richard Speck to do while he was in prison, let him and his supporters pay the bill, not the taxpayers, which in the end, we will be “stuck with the bill”.

    1. Silence

      Manning won’t be in the “Federal Penal System” he’ll be at Fort Leavenworth, at the USDB – under the US Army Corrections Command. Which is different than the civilian “United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.”
      I have a hard time believing that he/she will be eligible for parole in 8 years, though.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    Manning did not play the gender identity card to shirk culpability. I believe him/her.

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